After the Minnesota Wild’s loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday, the Blackhawks clinched the Central Division and the top seed in the Western Conference. This gave Joel Quenneville the opportunity to give some of his best players a couple of games off to prepare for a long postseason run.
We began to see key players sit out of the lineup on Tuesday when Chicago visited Central Division bottom-feeder Colorado. Quennevile sat workhorse defenseman Duncan Keith, and Niklas Hjalmarsson who is expecting the arrival of his second child soon.
The Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Colorado before Scott Darling and the rest of the Chicago defense coughed up the lead and eventually lost 4-3 in overtime.
Chicago headed to the West Coast after the game to get ready for the final two games of the regular season. They visited the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night, and even more key players would see rest instead of action. Keith and Hjalmarsson each missed their second consecutive game, and Toews, Hossa, and Seabrook joined them by not playing against the Ducks.
The result of the game was an unsurprising one as the Ducks triumphed 4-0. At this point of the regular season, the Hawks have literally nothing to play for. They are already locked into their playoff seed in the West Conference, and the Washington Capitals locked up the 2017 Presidents’ Trophy earlier in the week.
Chicago will most likely play with a lineup similar to the one they used on Thursday when they visit the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. The lineup will probably see even less star power from Chicago’s side than it has in the last couple of games.
The most important thing for the Hawks to do at this point, is to make sure that their key players are prepared and well rested for the postseason. Once the Playoffs begin next week, the Hawks will gain Artem Anisimov back from injury which will fill out a lineup looking to add to its trophy case.